Africa’s Response to COVID-19 Impacts on Transport & Mobility

The Alliance and the International Road Federation (IRF) have collaborated on a research study, funded by the High Volume Transport Applied Research Programme (HVT), as part of the UK Department for International Development’s (DFID now FCDO) response to COVID-19. The study assessed the transport sector response during the COVID-19 pandemic in seven low- and lower middle-income countries in Africa. 

Alliance NGOs in Cameroon, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda conducted focus group discussions with drivers, riders, and passengers of public transport (formal and informal), truck drivers, and private vehicle drivers; cyclists, and pedestrians. The output provided a grassroots community perspective on how COVID-19 measures have impacted community access to transport services and mobility needs with attention to physical distancing and capacity restrictions and provided recommendations to governments and other transport stakeholders.

The report addresses the COVID-19 measures implemented in the focus countries, providing background and insights into the transport-related restrictions such as those affecting international travel, public transport, and urban and inter-urban travel restrictions. The report assesses the impact of these measures on transport – specifically looking at the impact on individual mobility to various locations such as public transport stations, workplaces, and residential areas, prior to providing insights into the detailed qualitative findings derived from interviews and focus group discussions. Lastly, detailed case studies for all seven countries are put forward, prior to key findings and recommendations being presented.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, governments in the seven focus countries applied a wide range of measures spanning from restrictions on public gatherings, curfews, closures of establishments such as restaurants, as well as to significant restrictions on international and national travel and transport more generally. Once first cases were confirmed, all countries eventually imposed the highest level of restrictions for international travel, meaning that international incoming and outgoing flights were banned, and borders were closed. However, the longevity of these measures varied significantly, as well as how countries chose to continue operating thereafter. Importantly, the severity of the restrictions did not always coincide with the rate of virus spread within the countries. Many countries reopened their borders despite rising case numbers for fear of the severe negative impacts on their economy.

Key Recommendations

  • Creating a national taskforce with regular consultations and follow-up meetings to allow time-sensitive and extensive collaboration among the various actors.
  • Integrating representatives of the informal transportation sector, such as boda boda associations, in the design and implementation process of measures against the spread of the virus as this facilitates more practical and effective measures and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
  • Fostering dialogue and harmonising cross-border SOPs, such as for testing strategies at land borders, which can mitigate the complications for cross-border traffic.
  • Enforcing and implementing a thorough M&E process at all levels is essential to ensure the effectiveness of measures being applied and to ensure compliance to the SOPs while at the same time safeguarding traffic and road safety rules.
  • Improving coordination within the transport sector, for example through trainings, can reduce any reluctance to particular measures and heighten the sense of responsibility of jointly acting against the virus. Grassroots level NGOs can provide valuable support for these efforts and adapt to local contexts and needs, for example overcoming language barriers.
  • Encouraging a more rapid and effective development of user-friendly and safe transport infrastructure environments (e.g. separate bicycle lanes and sidewalks) can assist preventing the spread of a pandemic while also ameliorating the road safety situation for vulnerable road users.
  • Implementing stable pricing policies to maintain public transport affordable for the general public. Laws and financial penalties regarding maximum public transport pricing can ensure stable ticket prices for consumers.

Two webinars were recorded to present the findings from the report. Watch them below.